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Coyotes renounce draft pick Mitchell Miller after report of bullying, racism

The Coyotes logo on the ice during the NHL hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Arizona Coyotes on March 26, 2019 at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes are renouncing the rights of 2020 fourth-round draft pick Mitchell Miller, the team announced Thursday.

Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro was the first to learn of the decision.

The decision comes after a report from The Arizona Republic surfaced that the defenseman had bullied an African-American classmate with developmental disabilities four years ago.

Four years ago, Miller admitted in an Ohio juvenile court to bullying Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, who was tricked into licking a candy push pop that Miller and another boy had wiped in a bathroom urinal. Meyer-Crothers had to be tested for hepatitis, HIV and STDs, but the tests came back negative, according to a police report.

Mitchell represented the team’s first selection in the 2020 NFL Draft after Arizona traded its first- and third-round picks and lost its second-rounder due to violating draft scouting rules.

“We have decided to renounce the rights to Mitchell Miller, effective immediately,” Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said in a statement Thursday. “Prior to selecting Mitchell in the NHL Draft, we were aware that a bullying incident took place in 2016. We do not condone this type of behavior but embraced this as a teachable moment to work with Mitchell to make him accountable for his actions and provide him with an opportunity to be a leader on anti-bullying and anti-racism efforts.

“We have learned more about the entire matter, and more importantly, the impact it has had on Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family. What we learned does not align with the core values and vision for our organization and leads to our decision to renounce our draft rights. On behalf of the Arizona Coyotes ownership and our entire organization, I would like to apologize to Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family. We are building a model franchise on and off the ice and will do the right thing for Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family, our fans and our partners. Mr. Miller is now a free agent and can pursue his dream of becoming an NHL player elsewhere.”

Miller was the first draft pick made under new Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong’s regime, though Armstrong was not working the draft due to an agreement with his former team, the St. Louis Blues.

“I fully support our decision to renounce Mitchell Miller’s draft rights,” Armstrong said in a statement Thursday. “It was a unique situation for me not being able to participate in this year’s Draft and we were going through a transition with our scouting department. Mitchell is a good hockey player, but we need to do the right thing as an organization and not just as a hockey team.

“I’d like to apologize to Isaiah and the Meyer-Crothers family for everything they have dealt with the past few months. I wish them all the best in the future.”

Miller, 18, played for the Tri-City Storm in the United States Hockey League (USHL) and scored eight goals with 25 assists in 44 games in 2019-20.

Miller has played in the USHL since 2017, when he was drafted 17th overall in that junior league futures draft. He has experience playing for Team USA at the World Junior “A” Hockey Challenge the past two seasons. Over six games in the last event, he scored two goals to go with four assists as the United States won the silver medal.

At the time of his draft selection, the 5-foot-11 and 194-pounder from Sylvania, Ohio, was committed to playing for North Dakota next season.

“We were aware of an unfortunate incident that occurred with Mitchell in eighth grade,” The school said in a statement Monday. “We made a decision that our program could provide him the necessary infrastructure and culture to hone not only his hockey abilities but most importantly, assist him in his continuing growth as a human being which will last him the remainder of his life.”


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